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Technologies, Innovation Platforms, key to tackling Fall Armyworm – Experts

Leaf window paning and leaf holing which are characteristic of stem borer infestation maize stem borer larvae to the right (Photo: P Chinwada)

 

Scientists and other experts in agriculture are meeting in Accra to find means of using technology (innovation platforms) to find a lasting solution to Fall Armyworm and boost agriculture productivity in Africa.

The gathering of the scientists, agriculturists, crop and livestock farmers and researchers, comes on the back of the destruction of farms by the Fall armyworm that cost the Ghanaian economy an estimated $64 million and the entire Africa $13 billion between 2016-2018, according to figures from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the USAID Bureau for Food Security.

The three-day event forms part of the activities of the Capacity Development and Technology Outreach (CDTO) Compact of Technologies for Africa Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), an Africa Development Bank (AfDB) funded programme to transform agriculture in Africa.

The meeting, which draws participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroun, Liberia and Sierra Leone, is training the first group of trainers on the establishment of innovation platforms as outreach instruments for scaling TAAT commodity technologies.

TAAT aims at enhancing the use of proven agricultural technologies among the stakeholders to foster the needed change through farm level productivity, value chain development among others.

Tackling Fall Armyworm

Addressing the opening session, Dr Oluwole Fatunbi, the Lead Specialist, Innovation Systems and Partnerships of the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA), said: “Fall Armyworm get to hit us in the face when we least prepare for it on the continent.

Fall Armyworm is fast affecting our maize, sorghum and other cereal crops.

A number of interventions have come from our development partners, but what TAAT is doing is to give it priority so that we can leverage existing knowledge and technology for controlling the Fall Armyworm,” he said.

The worm attacked cereal crops across the continent, threatening food security, but Dr Fatunbi said his projection was that if technologies being developed were well implemented, the effect of Fall Armyworm would reduce gradually and in two or three years, the plague would be eradicated.

“Within TAAT, we are not generating technologies, we are bringing the technologies down into the hand of users and create the enabling environment for the users to do so effectively,” he said.

According to Fatunbi, many stakeholders on the African continent know about innovation platform, but do not understand how to implement the platform to ensure a free flow of technology to the last mile.

Often, the impact of the innovations were not felt at the farmer level, he stated.

He explained that some of the technologies the TAAT would be facilitating its dissemination and operationalisation were climate-smart technologies including; drought resistance seeds and water management technologies that will transform African agriculture and contribute to the continents socio-economic development.

Scaling out technologies

“We want to get agriculture technology to deliver broad-based impact, starting from the smallholder farmer to large-scale farmers and ultimately for agriculture to yield national development,” Dr Fatunbi said.

He said while many stakeholders in the agriculture space knew about how innovation platforms could transform agriculture, the challenge had been with how to operationalise the platform to increase productivity.

To ensure that the training yielded the desired result, he said after the training, the participants would be mandated to train others within a stipulated time.

“Within TAAT, we ensure that after the training, we mandate them to establish an innovation platform as a proof that they acquired the appropriate knowledge.

We also ensure that we provide the resources for it,” he said.

Sustainability

In a speech read on his behalf, the acting Director of the Directorate of Agriculture Extension Services of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Theophilus Osei Owusu, touched on sustainability of innovation platforms.

“There is urgent need to incorporate this system into our agricultural extension service delivery with the participation of stakeholders along the agricultural value chain.

“What we need to do right now is to move the innovation platform beyond community level.

We should establish innovation platforms at the regional and national levels for commodities such as maize, rice and cassava.

This development will improve food and nutrition security and also our exports,” he said.

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